One simple question: what kind of life do you want to live? No, it’s not the universal question for the existential dread that can come with living actual life, but it is the driving force behind every Sim that has ever come into existence. With the arrival of The Sims 4 on consoles, now even more Sims will be asking that question as they get ready to start their brand new (maybe not that new) lives. The Sims has been capturing the hearts of game enthusiast since the beginning of the aughts and it’s better than ever four iterations later. What makes for such a fantastic social experience? Well, that’s a big answer, but luckily one that can be answered with the joy of a Sim just having kissed their new crush. Hopefully they don’t set the tilapia on fire while cooking for their hot-date.
The term social experience isn’t thrown around just for the sake of it; a big part of The Sims has always been the sharing of content, creations and achievements within a thriving community of avid players. With each iteration of The Sims, players have been able to share such content in more creative ways. While all this sharing capability carries over to The Sims 4 on console, it is still missing a key feature that players might not be happy with, even if it’s a feature technically outside of the game. There are no mod capabilities in sight. This is a huge problem for the console edition as it means all the fantastic content that can come out of mods won’t be put in the hands of The Sims 4 players looking to pick it up in its new iteration. While there’s no news yet if mods will make it to this console edition, seeing games like Fallout 4 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim bring mods over signals to other games that this might be something worth doing. This is, however, one small part of what makes up The Sims 4 and there is plenty to look forward too.
The best news is The Sims 4 maintains everything fans will love from the PC version, while simplifying the controls of navigating the many menus on console. Mapping a controller when bringing a PC game to consoles is always tricky, what with the limited button set available. The Sims 4 has scaled everything down too easy to use controller mapping based on what the player is doing. If not having visited a menu recently, all one needs to do is tap down on the L3 button and a controller map screen will pop-up for whatever activity is at hand. The menus are easy to read, with writing that doesn’t make one squint their eyes into oblivion. It will take some getting used to if coming over from The Sims 4 on PC, but after an hour or two, switching between menu and activity is a breeze. There are certain aspects to navigating menus on console that don’t translate as well from PC, such as the many hotkeys that come with a keyboard, but luckily the feature of tapping down on the PS4 controller pad to bring up an immediate menu action helps ease this feeling of not navigating quickly, allowing the mouse to jump effortlessly between menu options.
The mouse/camera controller is a different story. When creating a Sim or just using the mouse in general, it acts like a truck — starting slow and steadily pick up speed before taking off. It’s frustrating when trying to fine tune a Sim in Create-A-Sim mode or selecting one of the smaller button prompts. It means dragging the mouse back and making sure to not push too hard in the chosen direction. This also applies to the camera, where it will go from a slow pan to suddenly whisking the camera to a neighboring house. It’s a balancing act of push and pull that needs some fine-tuning. It isn’t terrible and moving things around once getting the touch down isn’t totally frustrating, but these mouse/camera problems will still happen all too frequently.
For those that might be coming to The Sims 4 for the first time, get ready for a creation mode unlike anything before. This goes for both creating a Sim’s look to their personality and aspirations. The Sims 4 aspiration system is an excellent way to set goals for play and can also be switched on the fly without taking a penalty to progression in a certain aspiration. Personality traits dictate what type of Sim is being created, but choose wisely because there are only three slots and they can’t be changed. Creating Sims is more in line with sculpting clay, rather than just picking generic options. While the number of options for features/body type are available, being able to sculpt the face/body means creating the most unique Sims possible or creating Gordon Freeman…like I did. This also goes for clothing, with more options than ever for how Sims want to look for any occasion. An extra special feature for The Sims 4 is being able to fine tune a Sims gender. The Sims 4 doesn’t want to exclude anyone and the level of customization that can be put into a Sim is outstandingly well thought out. Not every option that one might want will be available, which is unfortunate because over on PC, The Sims 4 just got more curly hair options, with many players breathing a sigh of relief. The Sims 4 does the best it can for representation, which is good, but could be even better. Another area where mods would be appreciated.
Of course, creating Sims is only part of the fun as they need somewhere to live, which means building a home. One could purchase one of the many pre-made homes in The Sims 4 neighborhoods, but that takes away the magic of creating the best abode for one’s Sim family to dwell in.The Sims 4 comes with just as many fantastic options for building and decorating a home as it does for making a Sim. It can all seem a bit overwhelming, but with menus tailored to different needs, it makes it all the easier. Want to look at all the lighting options? Not a problem! Maybe, it would be easier to go by room or maybe a pre-designed room will work? The Sims 4 gives power to creation, and once the tools available feel comfortable to use, making more complex home design is a worthwhile challenge. More experienced home builders might not find everything one wants to do available, such as the problem of creating stairs that turn or the finicky nature of a structures foundation. Making it a challenge to build around some ideas, luckily there are plenty of YouTube videos that can help with this. It’s just one more area where The Sims 4 gets in its own way just a bit.
What Sims game would be complete without living out the fabulous individuals lives that have been created? Once a Sim household with home is set and ready for play, the wheel really gets turning. The Sims 4 comes with all the living capabilities of previous games in the series, but like everything else, it brings even more to the table. The Sims 4 really does do the best job for creating whomever, and once a Sim begins interacting with other Sims, the chaos that can only come from a Sims game begins to play out. When a Sim begins their new life, they have no skills whatsoever, but not a problem as you can just select the thing that requires a skill and they will immediately begin learning said skill. Like everything else in The Sims 4, living becomes a balancing act, not because of things going wrong, but where a Sim will end up. Do they pursue their aspiration or do they ignore it completely instead focusing on their career? Whatever they choose to do, moving between activities in this game is easy, giving the player or Sims full autonomy during play.
The sheer number of things for a Sim to do is astounding and pursing anything will net reward life-time achievement points that can be redeemed for permanent perks or on-the-fly potions that have certain capabilities. It’s a great way to reward the player for the time put into The Sims 4 and feeds that itch for accomplished progression. This range of options isn’t just for the home, extending out into the populated world where other Sims await. Each hub-neighborhood of The Sims 4 comes with different things to do, from parks and bars to museums. At some point every Sim wants to venture out in to the world and with plenty to do they’ll never get bored…unless they have the lazy perk. At the same time, these populated hub-worlds also seem to drag down The Sims 4 in certain technical aspects.
The Sims 4 looks great on console — to be expected — but it has constant frame-rate hiccups matched with the game freezing for a few seconds. The freezing doesn’t happen as much as the game chugging during certain moments, but it happens enough to be noticeable. Luckily, The Sims 4 never crashed once on me, always being able to catch back up with whatever it was doing. It can be a frustrating, but never stopped play to the point of being egregious nor does it take away from the overall experience. The Sims 4 runs fine the majority of the time, with the noticeable hiccups in-between. This will most likely be fixed in the future, but out the gate The Sims 4 on console is already a bit out of breath, without having run the race.
The Sims 4 on both PS4 and Xbox One is a welcome addition for the series, allowing players that might not have the PC capabilities to enjoy a beloved series. It maintains its level of quality from PC, but still needs some work in various technical areas, seeing as the mouse/camera isn’t the best and the game will consistently hitch, especially with longer play sessions. Everything that makes for a great Sims game is in The Sims 4, and with updated creation options and attention to detail unmatched by other games in the series, The Sims 4 is worth it, giving a freedom of play most games just don’t offer. It’s unfortunate that EA didn’t bring mods over from the PC community, especially with other big games doing this, but maybe later down the line they’ll follow suit. Not to worry, though, plenty of extra content will be available at launch, with four expansion and item packs coming out alongside The Sims 4 at launch, making sure to give much of the available content to console players right away.